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Subjectively speaking, thin-slicing makes the same ham taste much better, perhaps by increasing its surface-to-volume ratio?

Why do we slice some meats thinly and not others?

  • Charcuterie can include any animal. I'm not sure what you mean. If you are not referring to cured meat, I've had pork that is thin sliced, thick sliced...shredded...you name it...same is true for beef. – moscafj Oct 21 '17 at 22:05
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    I cant back this up with evidence (I'm completely speculating here), but I wonder if it's a texture/tenderise thing. Quality steak that has been cooked professionally is naturally tender and easy to eat, even if it's thick. Ham may be thinly sliced because it isn't as naturally tender (imo) or is a different texture and may be harder to get through. An additional factor is also that salt-cured meats are also sliced thinly because they can have a strong salty flavour that can be overpowering in large quantities. – user61949 Oct 22 '17 at 8:45
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    I agree with @Stacey, we slice meat thinly for edibility and taste, but the comparison made by MaxB is not accurate. We eat pork chops like steak, and we eat roast beef like ham, for example. I am going to take the liberty of editing the question. If MaxB or others are opposed, it can be undone. – moscafj Oct 22 '17 at 12:28
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    @moscafj the only thing I stated was that ham is commonly thin-sliced, while steak is not. What's not accurate there? – MaxB Oct 22 '17 at 13:58
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    @MaxB the forum works best when questions and answers are clear The question about why we slice meat thinly is a good one. I was just clarifying so that your question was not closed. – moscafj Oct 22 '17 at 14:33
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Some meats are sliced thinly to break up the muscle fibers that run through it. A properly sliced flank steak is tender, while unsliced or improperly sliced it's tough and chewy.

Not all cuts of meat require the slicing, however. If it doesn't have long, strong muscles, it may be fine without. And this is a function of cooking.... tougher working muscles can. E slow cooked until it falls apart on its own, such as for pulled pork.

Most cuts of meat from larger mammals may be sliced thickly or thinly, but the decisions soon often comes down to tradition more than anything else. There may be national or regional dishes that prepare a specific cut of meat in a specific way. Not only in how it's cut, but how it's prepared and possibly how it's presented and accompanying dishes.

When it comes to sandwiches, I'm of the opinion that shaved meat is always superior to sliced (except possibly when we're dealing with some that weren't a whole muscle to start... meatloaf, liverwurst, etc.... although salami, bologna, formed ham and many others are still better shaved). But I agree with Cindy that thick slices are often better when served on a plate. (and more convenient to turn the leftovers into a casserole)

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Have you ever been to Arby's? (see Arby's Roast Beef - what cut of meat?)

The beef equivalent of a Ham is called a Steamship Round and it is commonly served roasted and, yes, sliced thin. It is the whole primal round of a cow.

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For the market (in the US) the round is commonly butchered down to other, smaller, cuts. Tri-tip, rump roast, eye of round. For the most part You will only see a full steamship round at large meals or in cafeterias or a catered event.

(note: before editing the question originally contrasted ham vs. steak (presumably beef))

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Any meat can be thinly sliced. How meat is sliced is usually dependent on what it's going to be used for. Some examples:

  • We have a market that sells very thinly sliced ribeye steak. I will buy that if I want to use it for sandwiches or certain Mexican dishes. But, if I want to sit down to a steak dinner, I don't want paper thin meat.

  • If I use ham for sandwiches or biscuits, I am usually going for pretty thinly sliced ham. But, if I want a ham steak, I don't want it paper thin.

The same goes for chicken, turkey, lamb, etc. Mostly, it comes down to the intended use.

The other factor involved is personal preference. For example, I have seen thinly sliced turkey (both processed and fresh cooked) served with the fixin's for a turkey dinner, but I personally prefer a thicker slice or a turkey part (thigh, wing, etc.). And in that case, I don't want the processed version, either.

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